Task force highlights goals to help Oregonians acquire health care coverage with end of public health emergency approaching

Members of a new task force pinpointed goals they will work on to provide health care coverage for Oregonians in need during their first meeting Tuesday.

 

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Oregon’s Bridge Health Care Program Task Force was formed after the passage of House Bill 4035 during the last legislative session. Members will work to create a bridge program to offer health care coverage to people leaving the Oregon Health Plan at the end of the public health emergency and potentially offer coverage for people who fall under certain income thresholds.

Task force Co-Chair Rep. Rachel Prusak (D-Tualatin) said the meeting represented an exciting opportunity to help Oregonians.

“I see the emotional toll having no health insurance has on people,” Prusak said. “Any day, our lives can be flipped upside down by a diagnosis or car accident.”

Members highlighted task force priorities, which include prioritizing health equity, reducing the number of uninsured Oregonians, maximizing federal funding, and ensuring stability for individuals in small insurance markets.

Task force Legislative Policy and Research Office Analyst Brian Nieubuurt discussed HB 4035 requirements and timelines. The overarching goal for the task force will be to develop a proposal for a bridge program that provides affordable health insurance coverage and improves the continuity of coverage, he said.

The public health emergency is slated to end on July 15, Nieubuurt said. The task force’s proposal will be due to lawmakers on Sept. 1. The task force will also have a report for market stabilization due on Dec. 31.

HB 4035 requires the task force to focus on providing coverage for people up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level who do not qualify for the Oregon Health Plan, Nieuburrt said. The task force’s proposal will aim to prioritize health equity, continuous coverage, enhance the coordinated care delivery system, and provide all essential health benefits. It will offer coverage through Coordinated Care Organizations.

If it becomes practicable, the plan will also provide dental coverage options, health care options that have no or limited enrollee out-of-pocket costs, and will utilize provider reimbursement rates that are higher than the Oregon Health Plan, Neiubuurt said. 

Task force Co-Chair Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-Portland) said she believes Oregon can be the healthiest state in the nation.

“But we need to make sure everyone has access to health care,” Hayward said. “The work we’re doing here is the next step in Oregon consistently being ahead of the curve and making sure every Oregonian has access to care.”